3 Ways to Handle Customers Who Have Unrealistic Expectations

Your customers want to get from A to Z in size, revenue, profitability and well…everything, and they want to do it now. The bad news? Customers aren’t always keenly aware of where they stand in their own maturity curve. Never mind that they also have an overly modest budget to go after that sky-high revenue goal.

Unfortunately, they are often left frustrated, stutter stepping between strategies because they have unrealistic expectations and/or aren’t quite as far along as they thought they were.

By designing your agency’s solutions where the customer actually stands — we call this a maturity curve–you can provide a service that goes deeper than superficial one-time engagements with limited results. It’s not about the product — it’s about your customer’s desired outcomes and how they utilize you to achieve them.

Here are three ways to help your clients view their market, their maturity, and your role in their success.

1. Don’t be afraid to talk tangible outcomes.

Listen — as someone who’s made his living ‘in the weeds’ running a successful marketing operations agency for the last decade, I get it. With so many unpredictable factors, committing to saying “we’re going to lift your revenue by 10 percent” feels like the pressure of the world on your back.

Removing those fears is a matter of aligning the engagement to the ask.

Clients ask for unrealistic outcomes all the time, and it’s not on you to turn a $6,000 budget into millions of dollars of revenue. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Agencies don’t want to turn away business, so they try to shoehorn a solution into a budget versus giving themselves the space to work a budget around a solution. To avoid this, agencies must paint a more clearer picture through their maturity curve.

It’s important to have benchmarked data (from similar projects and clients you’ve worked with) backed up by market data to illustrate the results achieved with the same runway. Having data to back you up allows you to accurately set expectations and communicate realistic results.

2. Benchmark, benchmark, benchmark.

Without a clear understanding of where a client currently stands, you can’t build solutions to first bring them up to a minimum level and then increase from there. That foundation is critical.

Unfortunately, most organizations don’t want to talk about foundations. They want to tackle level 10 results without a solid baseline benchmark for even level one. That’s where you, as the vendor, have to do a better job of building products and services around the minimum maturity level first.

You can’t circumvent the different levels of maturity, but you can provide a roadmap showing clients exactly where along the path they can expect results. You’ll have the data to walk your client through the process to arrive where they want to go, while pointing out opportunities at each stage.

At LeadMD, we’ve learned to start pulling back the option for customers to pick from a big menu of solutions right off the bat. People come to us and say they want to implement lead nurturing, for example, which is a very prescriptive ask and one that most agencies answer with an all-encompassing list of services.

Instead, we’ve started selling specific solutions designed around different levels of maturity because we have the insight to tell customers what level they’re at now and where we can realistically take them.

Frame every customer ask in terms of the outcomes they are looking to achieve. Successful agencies have found a way to be less tactical and more outcome focused. So if a client came to us asking for lead nurturing, we might assess that what they’re really asking is to accelerate lead velocity in the middle of the funnel, which we’ve benchmarked as level two. In order to graduate into that level, we would start applying the right products instead of selling everything on our menu.

3. Say goodbye to transactional dollars, and hello to bigger engagements.

Customers fall in love with new features, and software providers love to jam a whole host of new bells and whistles into the next “must-have” product.

As a result, agencies that serve these customers can see a lot of short-term success building ready-made solutions like templates and campaigns, but the relationships with the customers never goes beyond that initial sale.

It’s easy to do; after all, it’s hard to give up transactional money when it’s good. But the real gold is down the road once you’ve mapped a tangible yield. Tackling the bigger problem for customers instead of treating the little symptoms is what will ultimately give you a better deal. While your sales cycle will be a little longer than you’re used to, you’ll be providing tremendous value.

When you design your services around your clients’ maturity, you don’t just assume you’re only going to get one project out of them. It takes a bit of an organizational mindset shift to follow customers along the maturity map and actually finish projects, but you’ll start seeing the benefits of earning more secondary engagements and transitions into retainers.

Reframe your products as outcomes, and your customers will start seeing the bigger picture.

By Justin Gray
Founder and CEO, LeadMD

Source| INC